October 9, 2008

"Mission Control? Let's play two out of three."

Since chess requires substantial concentration, I enjoy photos of people playing chess under unusual circumstances. The prize-winner in this category used to be the kids who played chess on Daredevil Falls. (Yep, the pieces were magnetic.)

But NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoff now takes the prize for most otherworldly locale for a chess match: the International Space Station. Since it's hard to find good opponents in outer space (what, you think Russian cosmonauts can play? Please!), his opponent is Mission Control.
Yes, the pieces are magnetic. And actually, make that Mission Controls, as there are four of them (in the US, Russia, Japan, and Germany). Versions of the current chess game are maintained at all sites, and scientists at each of them can make moves. (Below is Houston’s flight controller Chris Edelen playing into the astronaut's hands.)

Chamitoff thought the games might be a good way to build an esprit de corps with the teams. But since he won the first game, Chamitoff may want to consider what would happen if he regularly drubs the Earthsiders.

“Mission control, do you read? I repeat, mission control, Mayday—”

The latest board positions of game two is to the left (Mission Control is playing black); NASA's coverage of chess in space is here.

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